Younger Millennials More Likely to Smoke Marijuana Than Cigarettes

Younger Millennials More Likely to Smoke Marijuana Than Cigarettes

Jul 30th 2019

American adults are nearly as likely to smoke marijuana as cigarettes, a new Gallup poll finds, with consumption of the latter at a 75-year low.

In fact, adults between 18 and 29 are more likely to smoke marijuana than cigarettes — a trend that could have a significant impact on the tobacco and cannabis industries going forward.

Fifteen percent of Americans now say they smoke cigarettes, compared with a high of 45% in the 1950s.

Meanwhile, about 12% reported smoking cannabis — which is about the same level that it's been for the past four years.

Public health campaigns have helped spread awareness about the dangers of cigarettes, which are responsible for the deaths of nearly 500,000 Americans each year. Conversely, the marijuana legalization movement has effectively put an emphasis on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

A separate Gallup poll in 2018 showed that Americans view marijuana as significantly less harmful than cigarettes.

This latest survey doesn't directly suggest that people are swapping cigarettes for joints, but it identifies demographic trends that could further explain how the cannabis market could soon overtake the tobacco industry despite the fact that cigarettes are federally legal and widely available at gas stations and convenience stores while marijuana is not.

“The once commonplace habit of cigarette smoking has dwindled to the point that fewer than one in seven Americans smoke,” Gallup wrote. “And although smoking has long been associated with lower socio-economic groups, smokers are now an exceedingly rare breed among upper-income and highly educated Americans.”

“But perhaps more significant for the future of the tobacco industry is that — even with recreational use of marijuana legal in only 11 states — higher percentages of young people report smoking marijuana and vaping than say they smoke traditional cigarettes,” the survey continued. “This contrasts with adults over 30, who remain more likely to be cigarette smokers than vapers or marijuana users.”

In other words, younger millennials are largely driving the trend, signaling where things could be heading for the country overall in the coming years. Twenty-two percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 said that they smoked cannabis in the past week, while 14% said they smoked cigarettes in that time. The numbers are roughly flipped for those aged 30 to 49, 11% of whom said they smoked marijuana and 19% who said they smoked cigarettes.

The survey, which involved phone interviews with 1,525 adults from July 1-12, 2019, includes some other interesting demographic information about cannabis consumers.

  • College graduates are more likely to use marijuana (13%) than smoke cigarettes (9%).
  • College graduates and those who didn't attend college consume cannabis at the same rate (13%).
  • Men are just as likely to smoke cigarettes (15%) as they are for marijuana (15%), while women are significantly less likely to smoke marijuana (9%)than cigarettes (15%).
  • Twice as many people with incomes of $100,000 or more smoke cannabis (10%) compared to cigarettes (5%).

“How these patterns evolve may depend on the regulatory environment around e-cigarettes, as well as ongoing trends in the production and sale of marijuana-based products,” Gallup said, noting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gained regulatory authority over e-cigarettes.

“Meanwhile, legalization of marijuana is on a roll at the state level, and could eventually earn federal support,” the survey stated. “At the same time, the explosion in the sale and use of hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) oil could strip marijuana of some of its medical appeal, while the mass legalization and production of marijuana could hamper its social appeal.”